P.O. Box 1411 Englewood FL 34295              941.474.8700                  info@englewoodpioneerdays.com

​61st Annual


Directors of the Englewood Pioneer Days Parade and Festival Committee, Inc.

Jean Airey

Chris Phelps

Cathy Redman

Jennifer Perry

Laura Fishpaw

Diana Woodruff

Heidi Holmes

Erick Phelps

Roger Redman

Bart Tracy

Warren Fishpaw

Gary Nieskes

Steve Varga

Tom Wisilko


Originally the Englewood Pioneer Day Parade – and all its surrounding events – were managed by individuals and organizations in the Englewood community. Over the years the organization was assumed by just one group which finally found the job too much to handle and decided to retire. This decision put the whole event in jeopardy and only a grass-roots response by a wide variety of community members has brought it back. These community members have formed what is now called the Englewood Pioneer Day Parade Committee.

The primary goal of the Englewood Pioneer Days Committee is to ensure the continuation of the Englewood Pioneer Days Parade.

In analyzing the history of the Pioneer Days Parade and its surrounding events over the years, the Committee believes a factor critical in ensuring the continuation of this event is that the organization and obligation is shouldered by the whole of the community as opposed to a single community group or organization.

Membership on the Englewood Pioneer Days Parade Committee is open to any individual or an organization sending an authorized representative. Participation on the Englewood Pioneer Days Parade Committee asks that the individual or representative, in all discussions and decisions, keep the goal of continuation of the Englewood Pioneer Days Parade as their priority.

All individuals and organizations will be equally encouraged and allowed opportunities to participate in the Englewood Pioneer Days Parade and any other activities surrounding it.

The Englewood Pioneer Days Parade and any events sponsored by or introduced by the Englewood Pioneer Days Committee will operate under a “balanced budget” philosophy and adhere to the spirit of the Englewood Pioneer Days celebration, that being; affordable and inclusive of all.

Pioneer Days     By Englewood, for Englewood


An Op-Ed piece by Erick Phelps published in the Englewood SUN in 2014

Six years ago I picked up the Sun and read Pioneer Days was being canceled. I couldn't believe it. My wife, Chris, goaded me saying, "Do something about it". I called Ken Kensey at WENG, Tom Newton at the Review, Lang Capasso at the Sun and Bill Truex. and asked if they'd support my effort. They all said yes and I start blasting emails to everyone I could think of. Debbie Marks of the CRA set up the first meeting. I didn't know a thing about Parades or the history of Pioneer days. I'd been in it twice, that was it. I later realized half the people at that meeting knew more than I did.

After the email smoke cleared, the people who showed up at a later meeting (and the next and the next) got tagged, the motley crew, because none of us knew each other. We were just Englewood people who wanted to make sure the Parade continued.

We all agreed the most important thing was to ensure the parade never be cancelled again. We'd read it was cancelled because of a pull-out of business sponsors and shortage of volunteers. It was the recession and, as every organization knows, there's always a shortage of volunteers. We decided in place of sponsors we'd have small fees and as many people, businesses and organizations involved, each to shoulder much smaller loads and we wouldn't spend one unnecessary dime. To this day if one of us wants a booth, we pay. Be in the Parade, we pay. This year we splurged. We bought a dozen t shirts and spray painted STAFF on them.

In a very short time the support started pouring in. We got donations for practically every expense. Even with that, the following year we did our budget based on paying for everything, expecting increasing costs and not counting on donations. We banked those Participant and Vendor fees to have a literal "Rainy Day" fund. Even if we were rained out, we'd still have to pay for permits, insurance and the Police. But the Parade would still go on the following year. If we came in over budget, we'd reinvest in things that would lower the following year’s expenses, namely tents, tables and such, knowing other expenses would go up. They did.

After a month or so the crew knew the parade was going to happen and added another goal. If we have thousands of people on Dearborn, why not have a festival to give people something else to do and give local businesses the opportunity to showcase themselves, which were the goals of Pioneer days in the first place, and help expose Dearborn Street to people, which was and is undergoing a revitalization effort?

In the end, the model worked.

Some events we put on; The parade, festival and Shipwreck Dance. Others we started and handed off to others; The Kids Shipwreck Dance and Chalkfest. Some started as the historic idea of Pioneer Days took hold: The Michael O’Donnell Memorial Fish-A-Thon, the Diaper Derby. Others, Capt’n Ricks Cardboard Boat Race, Lil' Miss/ Mr Englewood, Mayor for a Day were already going on. For some of these we do as little as promote them on the web site and in press releases, and others, we cover under our insurance policy. All in the idea that all of us working together generates better results than we would working separately.  

Along the way the "real" world intruded on Pioneer Days. While none of us wanted to, in order to open a bank account and get insurance, we had to become a "Business Entity". This went on to a need to incorporated as a formal non-profit organization, The Englewood Pioneer Days Committee.

The few however, can never take away from the great people I've worked with; Jean Airey, Cathy and Roger Redman, Jennifer Perry, Bart Tracy, Laura and Warren Fishpaw, my wife Chris and past crew members; Elaine and Bruce Schweitzer, Wendy and James Ullery, Toni Hopper, Bret Clark and last but not least Tammy Birdsong who showed me the real community of Englewood.

On Saturday night during the Shipwreck Dance, there was a group of people sitting on the bench in front of Pioneer Park. They were dressed for the costume contest. Talking to them, a girl sitting on the ground told us that she was little Miss Englewood in 1989. By the way she said it, half embarrassed, half proud, I could tell her friends didn't know that about her. I had to smile, I've heard a similar story a thousand times over the past 6 years.

Maybe it's because I came from a larger city, but after 6 years of seeing the heart of this community, I think I've seen clearly what a community really is.

A community is more than just a geographic area, it's an place where people, businesses and organizations feel a connection and, most importantly, a responsibility to other people, businesses and organizations they don't know or aren't members of.

Thank you people of Englewood, for showing me something that most people, unfortunately, don't think exists anymore

Englewood Pioneer Days